Monday, October 15, 2007


John Honey's novel 'Paint' was my choice for the October review for a number of reasons. The most outstanding reason was that it resonated so closely with me on many levels. The setting of the novel being round Hobart (where I live) is obvious, but this didn't really come into it though it did add to the overall feeling of familiarity about the book.

The fact that Boris, the main character, is an artist who is totally devoted to his craft to the exclusion of all else; the fact that author John Honey went into quite detailed accounts about Boris' dedication to and extreme love of food and its preparation, and wine and the fact that the repercussions of the Vietnam War fallout formed a reasonable part of the plot.

All four levels mentioned, plus the fact that I found it quite an easy read made my enjoyment of it total.

To briefly explain the logic used above: the artists world of total immersion in what they are currently working on has formed me as a human, my father being a sculptor. The circumstances of Boris' life as detailed by John Honey mirror (pretty accurately) my childhood with my father. Also the fact that I feel Honey has loosely fashioned some of his characters round real people in the art world here in Hobart whom I recognise reinforces this.

The food details logic is obvious if you've visited my blog site, named 'Hobart Food for thought'.

My late teenage years were spent in anger and frustration at our governments participation at that time in the Vietnam War - so that era comprised part of my formative years.

So - to the book itself. The main character, Boris, is a Vietnam vet who makes his living as an artist selling artwork to his Hobart dealer in order to support his lifestyle of good food, wine, music and of course painting.

Boris has a loving and caring relationship with his mother, Fairy, who lives, now widowed, alone in the seaside country town of Orford, which is an hours drive from Hobart, on the East Coast of Tasmania. His regular visits to check on his mum illustrate to Boris Fairy's slow downwards spiral into dementia.

The novel follows two separate routes: one of Boris' relationship with Fairy and the other involving his art and his discovery that his agent has ripped him off.

As with all books of this genre, it ends well, with Fairy dying on her own terms, and Boris' art dealership sorted out.

Being an avid and interested observer of my fellow man, my taste in reading matter tends to automatically veer towards books which graphically and realistically illustrate this. I found 'Paint' answered my criteria extremely well.

It wasn't 'Little Women' or 'TheThorn Birds' but I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope those that read it did too, though my bias may well have swayed my judgement.


Mary Bennet said...

Hi Rita,

Thanks for such a thoughtful review and for recommending this book. I wouldn't and come across it otherwise.

I spent the first few chapters wondering how I could move to rural Tasmania and spend my days baking bread, grinding my own herbs and learning to tell which sort of tree was which. Honey described the food, the landscape and the art with such precision that I really felt I'd been there and could see the paintings.

That's an interesting comment about the characters being based on people in the local art world. I half thought that Boris was a little bit too good to be true but hoped he had a real life (single, younger) counterpart that a (single) alternative version of me could to go on picnics with.

It was a good light read with a satisfyingly neat plot nicely tied up at the end. What's stayed with me in the days since finishing it is the sensitive way he dealt with Boris's relationship with his mother, especially the honest reflection of how frustrating it can be to care for someone even though you love them very much. My grandmother suffered from dementia and she had a long, saddening decline. Many of the things Honey has Fairy say were pretty close to how my grandmother was in the early stages. Heartbreaking.

Thanks again.

Rita said...

Hi Mary

Thanks for your comments. Despite trying so hard to dissociate myself from finding so much of th book so familiar, I really did feel that John Honey's powers of description were vivid enough for anyone to be able to 'feel' what he was expressing.

I'm glad you enjoyed it.

redcap said...

Oh dear, Rita. I feel terrible. I've been flat out like the proverbial ferret surfing and didn't even get around to ordering the book, let alone reading it. That was letting the side down, wasn't it? And it sounds like such an interesting book, too. Terrific review!

killerrabbit said...

Great review for a beautiful book - I was wondering why the book was self published? Was it rejected by publishers or did the author just decide to go it alone?

R.H. said...

How could any bon vivant be interesting?
Is that sociology creep at LP interesting?

And put up a new posting, there's been nothing here for two weeks!


Get some vitality!

Rita said...

Redcap - that's fine. Understand totally but would love you to read it at some stage. Feel sure you'd enjoy it.
Killerrabbit - I think author just decided to go it alone. His wife, Maria Honey, also writes. She has recently published a novel entitled 'Yes, Father' which is, like her husbands novel 'Paint', also set in Hobart and tells the story of life as a Catholic girl growing up.
RH - apologies for the perceived lack of vitality. Hopefully the Joan Didion will do it for you.

R.H. said...

Joan Didion? Who's that? I've never heard of her. I don't trust people I've never heard of.

redcap said...

FFS, r.h. - Google her. I suppose by that bizarre standard, then Bryce Courtney is hugely trustworthy.

R.H. said...

Listen, don't kill a smart comment by taking it seriously, okay? Who do you think you are?

Yes, well you got me there. I did see Bryce Courtney on daytime TV once and couldn't stand him. What a crawler. And I skimmed a Courtney book at South Yarra Borders, just to confirm it was trash. And it was; total shit. Well I can't read modern stuff anyway, boring, dreadful. There's been nothing good since Hal porter died. What a pity. Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony: amazing -no story, no sense, more flowery than a mafia funeral, but who cares.